Several months prior to his death, Neyland began working on a plan for supporters of UT athletic teams to show their interest in UT's academic programs by offering scholarships to attract outstanding student scholars to the University. General Neyland himself was an outstanding scholar, as well as an athlete during his college days at West Point. It was the General's dream that the University offer four-year academic merit scholarships to students who possessed outstanding academic and leadership qualities.
Following Neyland's death, Dr. Andrew D. Holt, then UT president, announced that a nationwide campaign would be launched to raise a minimum of $100,000 to establish the Robert R. Neyland Scholarship Fund. In October 1962, at half-time of the UT vs. Alabama game, 165 women representing UT's sororities collected more than $10,000 in a 15-minute time period at Neyland Stadium to launch the effort. By the end of fall 1962, more than $65,000 had been committed to the Neyland Scholarship fund. In the spring of 1963, a decision was made that proceeds from the annual Orange and White spring football game would go to help build the Neyland Scholarship Fund.
The first Neyland Scholarships were awarded in 1963. The first two recipients were Melissa Ann Baker of Maryville, Tennessee (now Mrs. Ann Baker Furrow, a former member of the UT Board of Trustees) and Mr. Robert English Allen of Columbia, Tennessee.
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“Men have a respect for scholarship and learning greatly out of proportion to the use they commonly serve.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)